Earlier this year, Sony hit a major benchmark by releasing the $400 BDP-S350, which was the company's first standalone Blu-ray with a retail price as low as the PS3. Sony's newly announced Blu-ray player, the BDP-S5000ES, is headed in exactly the opposite direction, aiming for the high end with a $2,000 list price and a bundle of enthusiast extras. Here's what you get for your two grand:
Key features of the Sony BDP-S5000ES:
- Blu-ray Profile 2.0
- Onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as bit stream output
- Quick start mode loads discs in 6 seconds
- Ethernet port for firmware and content
- Deep Color and x.v.Color support
- HD Reality Enhancer and Super Bit Mapping
- XrossMediaBar graphical user interface
- 7.1 analog outputs
- RS-232 and IR inputs
- Available in November, $2,000 list price
Altogether, the BDP-S5000ES hits all the major feature points we look for, plus some nice extras such as the quick start option and 7.1 analog outputs. As Sony explains it, the HD Reality Enhancer, "continually analyzes bit by bit of the original source, sharpening edges and reproducing detail, while reducing the effects of film grain." We haven't seen the technology yet, but it sounds similar to Toshiba's XDE technology, which adds edge enhancement to make images appear sharper, but in reality obscures real detail (we advised users to turn it off in our review of the XD-E500). Super Bit Mapping is supposed to "[deliver] smoother color gradation realizing true 14-bit equivalent color tone from 8-bit sources," but we'll have to do hands-on testing to see whether that's hype or there's actually an appreciable difference.
Of course, even with the extras, Sony is going to have a hard time justifying the $1,600 premium over the company's other excellent Blu-ray player, the multitalented PlayStation 3. It will also have standalone competition from Panasonic's newly released DMP-BD55, which has a similar feature set, including 7.1 analog outputs. There's certainly a niche market for these high-end Blu-ray players, but we're betting most buyers will be vastly better off with the comparatively cheap PS3.